The Stumbling Block That Might Stop Arsenal Signing Spanish International

 

Arsenal have been heavily linked with new Spanish international defender Mario Hermoso.

The move would make sense as the Espanyol centre-back is currently excelling in La Liga.

The twenty-three year old has helped his side keep five clean sheets in twelve games this season. He’s contributed defensively making around 1.7 tackles per game, 1.3 interceptions and a whopping 5.3 clearances. He’s also decent in the air and his aerial win stats are higher than Sokratis and Rob Holding.

The player himself sees his defensive attributes as being his main quality:

“Defending well. I am a defender and that is the main thing. Being aggressive and taking the ball well.”

If The Gunners are looking to strengthen in the winter transfer window, then a new centre-back and another right side forward would probably top their list.

Arsenal boss Unai Emery is also a Spaniard, so he’ll have been well informed when it comes to Mario. He’ll understand that he would offer plenty of potential. The Premier League side will no doubt know that the central defender has a release clause at a fee of £35m.

So where do the problems arise?

Well in terms of ability, Hermoso isn’t at his best when passing out of defence. We know Emery likes to see his defenders playing out of the back. He’d prefer better passing success stats than Mario’s 83%, all of The Gunners main central defenders have bettered that this term. Unai would want his players touching 90%.

Then there’s Real Madrid.

Espanyol bought Mario Hermoso from Los Blancos in 2017. It’s believed that the deal included a number of clauses including a £7.5m buy-back clause and a 50% sell on clause.

Now that the centre-back has received a call-up from national team boss Luis Enrique, Real will no doubt look at bringing the youngster back. It would even make more sense that they sign him for the cut-price fee and then sell him on for around £35m or £40m. They did that before with Alvaro Morata and I bet that’s why the brought back Mariano from Lyon in the summer.

You’ve also got to believe that the Spanish giants won’t sell him straight away either. They’ll probably give him until the summer to prove himself at the Bernabeu. Madrid’s defence has been pretty poor this season, eleven sides have conceded less in than Real’s sixteen in La Liga during this campaign. So new coach Santiago Solari might believe that Mario can help solve that current defensive issue.

While I can see the reasoning in Arsenal’s interest, I believe the transfer could become overly complicated. I’m also not sure Mario Hermoso would be the club’s best option given Unai Emery’s playing style. But it’s a deal I will keep an eye on!

Can Claudio Ranieri Save Fulham’s Premier League Dream?

Fulham have acted with purpose today as they sacked Slavisa Jokanovic and replaced him with Claudio Ranieri as their new manager.

To be fair to the Cottagers they did give Jokanovic a chance to prove himself in England’s top flight. They appreciated the fact that the Serbian was the man that got them promoted in the first place and gave him plenty pf money to spend during the summer transfer window, they spent around £100m in upgrading their playing personnel.

Fulham have looked fairly decent going forward. If they were placed in the Premier League table due to goals scored then they’d be in fifteen place instead of being bottom of the league. They’ve also managed an average of 12.3 shots per game, which is the twelfth best record in the league thus far.

The Cottagers are decent when it comes to keeping the ball; their possession percentage this term is up at 50.9% and their passing success rate is the seventh best in the top flight.

Unfortunately they’ve been all at sea in the defensive department.

No team has conceded more than Fulham’s thirty-one goals. Jokanovic continually changed his backline as he tried to find his ideal defensive line-up but that lack of continuity can cause even more problems as the defenders lost confidence in their own ability.

Another problem is that they can’t win games against the teams that are around them in the league table. They’ve already lost to Huddersfield Town, Crystal Palace and Cardiff City in this campaign.

In recent weeks, even the goals have dried up as confidence levels dropped to an all time low. They’ve lost the last four games and they haven’t scored in any of those defeats either. At the other end they conceded eight times in those same fixtures.

You just couldn’t see things changing under Slavisa. He was desperately trying to solve the problems but instead of doing that more issue would arise.

Cottagers owner Shahid Khan has decided to go for the opposite in Ranieri. The sixty-seven year old will bring with him plenty of experience. He’ll come in and look to solidify the team’s defensive foundations. During Claudio’s title winning campaign at Leicester City, the Foxes conceded just thirty-six times in thirty-eight league outings.

Ranieri’s experience is certainly a big reason for his appointment, with Khan stating:

“Claudio is risk-free and ready-made for the Premier League, and particularly so for what we need at this moment at Fulham.

“His recent body of work with Leicester City is literally legendary and then you look at Claudio’s experience with Chelsea and big clubs throughout Europe, and it’s pretty evident we are welcoming an extraordinary football man to Fulham football club.”

The Italian coach is also very good at getting the best out of his team’s positive aspects. He’ll look to get the most out of talented players like Aleksandar Mitrovic, Andre Schurrle, Ryan Sessegnon and Jean Michael Seri.

The manager also proved that he can change when the circumstances call for it. At Chelsea he was known as the ‘Tinkerman’ because of his constant team changes. But at Leicester City, the wily boss worked with a smaller squad and made drastically fewer changes to his starting eleven. If he finds a winning formula at Craven Cottage, he has to stick with it and I’m sure he’ll understand that.

His appointment reminds me of Roy Hodgson’s arrival back in 20o7. Fulham were in dire straits after Lawrie Sanchez’s stint in charge (Jokanovic has been better that Sanchez) and the club were in the relegation zone at Christmas. They look to be doomed at one stage but veteran manager Hodgson used all of his experience to guide them away from the trap door.

Claudio Ranieri will be tasked with doing a similar job this season. The Italian has a decent squad at Craven Cottage but the defence in particular needs some TLC. If he get the team playing to their strengths and give them a stronger backline, then Signore Ranieri will be worth his weight in gold to the Fulham faithful.

Manchester United Would Be Foolish To let Juan Mata Go

Juan Mata’s Manchester United contract runs out at the end of this current season.

It’s now being reported that the Red Devils are stepping up their efforts in getting the Spaniard to sign a new longer deal.

Personally, I think it makes complete sense for Man Utd to keep the thirty year old international.

He might not be an automatic starter under current boss Jose Mourinho but his experience has still been vital for the team this season.

Mata has started just six times in the Premier League/Champions League this term (plus he’s also made six substitute appearances) and in those games he’s scored twice and created an assist. Those contributions have been needed as he scored a freekick that helped United beat Juventus in Turin, he scored the first as Man Utd fought back to beat Newcastle United and his assist helped Luke Shaw secure the winner over Leicester City in their first win of the season.

That shows you that the small Spanish maestro can produce game changing moments and Man United need as many of those types of players as possible at the moment.

Juan’s great at keeping possession for his side; in the league he has a passing success rate of 88.9% and in Europe that goes up to 94.1%. He’s also composed enough to keep calm and that helps him keep the ball, even in pressured situations.

The former Chelsea and Valencia man is also efficient in the crossing department and that’s why you’ll often see Jose playing Mata out on the right flank during important fixtures.

He isn’t blessed with great pace but that will actually work in his favour as he gets older because he has a superb footballing brain, possess great vision and can pass brilliantly. While others lose certain talent as their speed declines, Juan will still be able to influence games because he’ll always have that footballing intelligence.

As he has proven this term, the veteran attacking midfielder is also one to watch when it comes to taking direct set-pieces. His goals against both Juve and Newcastle were from direct from free-kicks. He stepped up and curled the ball expertly just beyond the goalkeepers with left footed shots. That’s another quality most team’s are crying out for.

Mata has a vast amount of experience and he’s also well liked within the United dressing room. He’s a determined character and always seems to want to show that he’s trying when on the football park. That’s why Manchester United need to try and keep him at Old Trafford.

He’s also a man that understands that the United faithful deserve more from this current Man Utd team:

“I’m very happy for the team, for us, but especially for the fans. They don’t deserve everything that is going on, so they deserve to see a team like today.”

Yes he won’t start every game but he still has the talent and the attributes that mean he can change games even the important ones and I’m not sure the Red Devils can let that kind of player just walk away on a free.

 

Could Hirving Lozano Solve A Problem At Everton?

Everton are currently sitting just inside the Premier League’s top half of the table.

They’ve been impressive under new boss Marco Silva but they could still improve, especially if they want to break into the top six or challenge for silverware.

One thing that could be improved upon is their goalscoring.

So far this term, The Toffees have struck nineteen league goals in their opening twelve games. Not a bad return but seven other teams have bettered it.

Silva has recently stuck Brazilian international Richarlison through the middle and it looks like the twenty-one year old has all the attributes to lead the line. He’s got the pace and skill to beat opposing players and the former Watford man’s also a strong unit that won’t be easily bullied off the ball. Richarlison has grabbed six goals in ten top flight appearance thus far.

Behind the Brazilian, Gylfi Sigurdsson is shining in an Everton jersey as he’s now playing as the club’s number ten. He’s scored five times and created two assists. A lot of what’s good for The Toffees is coming through the Icelandic star.

Summer signing Bernard has started playing on the left wing after taking time to adapt to the English style. He looks to be a creative winger that will be on hand to provide plenty of assists for teammates.

If there’s a bit of a weak-link in the forward line then it could be coming from the right flank and Theo Walcott.

The English international has been at Goodison for eleven months and his tally this term has been two goals and two assists. He doesn’t take enough games by the scruff of the neck nor does he contribute enough. He doesn’t convince when he’s got plenty of time on the ball and he isn’t the best provider either. He may have been an ever present this term but he could hardly argue if he were to be dropped.

One name in the Eredivisie that could interest Everton and he’d be well suited to play on their right-hand side would be PSV Eindhoven’s Hirving Lozano.

The Mexican forward has been in sensational form during this campaign; he’s scored eight Dutch top flight goals and created four assists. He’s also scored and assisted in his side’s Champions League run.

His devastating pace and lethal finishing was in full effect as he helped PSV record a 2-2 draw against Tottenham Hotspur in Europe’s elite competition.

Lozano has spent most of this season out on the right wing and he’s looked superb on that channel.

‘El Chucky’ would offer The Toffees another serious direct goal threat. On average Hirving has taken 3.4 shots per his twelve Eredivisie games, more than double that of Walcott’s 1.5 in his twelve Premier League outings. He’s also enjoyed a higher passing success rate than Theo’s 75%.

As well as scoring goals, the twenty-three year old is an efficient crosser of the ball and is an attacking player who can spot an excellent through ball opportunity.

Like other attackers currently at Goodison, Lozano would offer versatility in the forward areas. As well as playing on the right, the Mexican internationalist can play on the left and as a makeshift central striker.

Now while we know that Everton can offer big bucks for footballers these days, PSV won’t be in a rush to sell one of their top talents. They are chasing the Dutch title after all.

Current Boeren boss Mark van Bommel stated in the summer that the club were in no rush to sell the forward:

“I do not take into account a departure from Lozano. We do not want to lose him. If we can say no to a bid of forty or fifty million euros? Yes, that’s possible.”

But it could be that PSV do have a price that they’d sell Lozano for and maybe Everton could be at an advantage when it comes to finding out that price.

As well as hiring a new head coach in Marco Silva in the summer, The Toffees also brought in a new Director of Football in Marcel Brands.

Brands was previously employed at PSV in the same role. So he would have handled Hirving’s transfer from Pachuca in 2017. He’ll certainly know the winger’s best qualities and the right people to talk to regarding a potential deal.

Earlier this seasons Brands paid Hirivng a huge compliment:

‘But actually when you look at his playing style, without wanting to compare, you know, Lozano has what Messi also has – a centre of gravity low to the ground, the ball is usually quickly under control, very explosive and agile. Then your opponents automatically force mistakes.’

You’ve got to believe that Marcel Brands would be neglecting his duties at Everton if he weren’t to use his close contacts at the Philips Stadion and not try and persuade them to sell Hirving Lozano.

The biggest problem could be stealing a march on the other top European clubs that are no doubt interested in the Mexican’s signature.

Why Elite Sides Juve, Barca & Man City Are Chasing Ajax’s Matthijs de Ligt

 “To be honest, we didn’t play at 100 per cent, but we won 7-1. The difference between the sides in the Eredivisie right now is huge.

“The tension is less each time as there’s only two teams who are racking up the points. If we keep winning, it won’t be a problem, but we have to admit that it’s less fun.”

This was a brutal assessment of The Netherlands domestic league from Ajax youngster Matthijs de Ligt after his team’s recent 7-1 win over Excelsior in the Eredivisie.

His comments were then followed up wth the following from Dutch national team manager Ronald Koeman:

“I think it’s clear that a player like Matthijs de Ligt in a certain moment decides to make a step to a bigger league, to another level. Unfortunately, players leave the Netherlands earlier than in my time.”

Both of these statements will have interested many a top team manager and director of football throughout Europe.

Many might look at these recent comments and may want to test the waters with a big bid.

But why would some of Europe’s major clubs be interested in Matthijs?

Well De Ligt is potentially one of the best defensive talents in the game.

The Ajax man has the skill-set to become a world class defender. As well as impressing in the Dutch top flight, De Ligt has also shone in the Champions League.

The international is a natural central defender. He’s a determined character, who possess good pace and that often sees him winning tackles and interceptions.  In the tougher games in Europe’s elite competition this year, De Ligt has made on average three tackles per game.

Matthijs is also pretty decent in the air too, winning around three headers in his fourteen games for de Godenzonen in this campaign.

We all know teams like Juve, Barca and City want more than just strong defensive qualities in their defenders. Again the nineteen year old Ajax centre-back would easily tick that box.

The tall defender looks very elegant when on the ball, is extremely efficient when passing and always seems to be composed.

In the Eredivisie this term, the central defender has a 91% passing success rate. That would be ideal for a club like Pep Guardiola’s Man City or Max Allegri’s Juventus as they are well known for controlling games and bossing possession.

Like compatriot Virgil van Dijk, Matthijs can step forward and dribble into the opponent’s half.

The young Netherlands internationalist has shown that he has the qualities to be at one of the world’s best clubs and with Mino Raiola as his agent I’d expect him to leave Ajax within the next two transfer windows (probably next summer).

If recent reports are to be believed then Serie A champions Juventus are leading City and Barca in the chase for Matthijs de Ligt’s signature.

Joining the Italian giants would be a smart move, as he could learn a lot from their world class centre-backs like Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chellini.

Wherever De Ligt ends up, he’ll have to prove that’s he is more than just potential. That’s sometimes the hardest part for any potential world class performer.

Would Callum Wilson Offer Best Of Both Worlds At Chelsea?

Chelsea have recently been linked with a £35m move for AFC Bournemouth forward Callum Wilson as The Blues continue in their search to solve their striking issues.

Current Chelsea attackers Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata haven’t fully convinced new Blues boss Maurizio Sarri; Giroud is great in the build-up play but the Frenchman has been poor in terms of his scoring return this season and Morata has been fairly inconsistent with his form since arriving in 2017.

Could Callum Wilson represent the best of both worlds?

His form this season has seen Callum receive his first call-up for the English national team. No England player has so far bettered the Cherries hitman’s six Premier League goals thus far this term. In fact only Sergio Aguero, Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang  and Eden Hazard have scored more top flight goals in England’s top tier this term.

Wilson has had a difficult time of it in the Premier League, as he’s twice been seriously sidelined with cruciate ligament injuries. But he’s fought back twice and looked very accomplished when he’s leading the line.

In total; the twenty-six year old has made seventy-two top flight appearances and found the net twenty-five times.

The striker is an intelligent player. He can use his strength and speed to evade challenges, turn players and get into the box. He knows how to find space when inside the penalty area and that’s a valuable commodity for any striker. He can finish with either foot. On average, he has taken around 2.6 shots per game this term.

The Bournemouth forward is very energetic and has been thriving in a team that likes to attack, which is same mindset that they have at Stamford Bridge.

As well as being a dependable goalscorer, Callum is also great at creating chances for those playing in and around him. The forward has been on hand to assist four times in his opening twelve league appearances this season.

The striker has a habit of making forceful and deliberate runs into the channels, then finding himself on the ball and producing strong deliveries into the box. By doing that he creates plenty of space for incoming fellow attackers. it’s worked brilliantly for Ryan Fraser, David Brooks and Josh King and it would work equally well for Hazard, Pedro and Willian.

You’ve got to imagine Sarri would like a forward that could offer the assists of Giroud and the goals of Morata, Wilson could be that man.

But we can’t ignore the question marks.

It’s great that he’s had an injury free spell and managed to get a full preseason under his belt but his previous injuries might still put off potential suitors.

Then there’s the fact that he still hasn’t proven himself on the international stage and he hasn’t had the chance to show if he can handle the rigours of elite European competition. Chelsea know they need to get the next striking signing right and they might want a bigger star name, although they should know by now that reputation guarantees nothing!

Wilson’s passing stats aren’t the best either (passing success rate 65%). Maurizio wants to see his players coming back with over 85% in that particular stat.

Then there is AFC Bournemouth.

The Cherries have enjoyed a terrific start to the season and currently find themselves in sixth place. I doubt they’ll be wanting to lose any key stars in January as that will upset the good continuity they’ve been enjoying lately.

When asked by the Bournemouth Daily Echo if he would entertain any bids for his frontman, Cherries boss Eddie Howe stated:

“Of course not. From my position, sitting here as the manager, I’m looking to build a team.”

“I still feel we are a relatively new team with this group of players and the signings we made in the summer.”

“I’m really pleased with how the squad is set up and the structure of it and I don’t want to break that.”

I think Callum Wilson could be a good recruit for Chelsea as he has the skill-set that could see Maurizio Sarri get a forward that offers more than what’s currently available to him.

I’m just not so sure that he’d be the star striker that the Blues fans are craving for and I doubt Bournemouth would do a deal during the winter transfer window.

McGregor & Christie’s Celtic Performances Heap Pressure on Injured Duo

We’ve seen a real upturn in Celtic’s performances in the past month or so.

The Hoops have won their last seven domestic fixtures and just secured a vital victory in their Europa League clash against RB Leipzig.

Both Ryan Christie and Callum McGregor have helped their team’s cause during this return to form and they were especially good in the win over the Bundesliga cracks on Thursday night.

People might have been impressed with the new ‘disco lights’ at Celtic Park the other evening but it was the Celtic midfield that really seemed to shine!

After an extended loan spell away at Aberdeen since his signing from Inverness Caley Thistle, Christie is finally taking his chance to impress at Parkhead.

The attack-minded midfielder has struck three goals in each of his last three domestic games, including two against Scottish Premiership leaders Hearts. He also superbly burst forward against Leipzig to then pick out Odsonne Edouard expertly inside the box and the Frenchman then grabbed the winner.

Christie is great at knowing when to go forward and join in attacks. He’s also aware of his surroundings when it comes to setting up chances for others or taking on an attempt himself.

The Scottish international was played in a central midfield position in the Europa League win on Thursday night. He was extremely impressive in his defensive work. No player on the park attempted more tackles than Ryan’s ten tackling attempts, plus importantly Christie won all of those tackles!

In beside Christie, Callum McGregor gave another assured and mature display.

We all know that the Hoops youth product is great at finding space on the park and dictating play. He has shown in recent weeks that he can be a stalwart in the holding role too. He’s a player that leads by example and can cover every inch of grass.

Being an intelligent player, Callum is able to snuff out attacks by nipping in and making an interception. In the European win over RB Leipzig, he made five successful interceptions and again that was more than any other footballer on the field of play.

It was McGregor’s quick thinking and ability to spot an opportunity that started the build-up that lead to Kieran Tierney’s opening goal.

Like Christie, Callum also has an eye for goal and he’s especially good at popping up, grabbing vital strikes in important games!

After the Europa League win, Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers was glowing in his assessment of McGregor’s performance:

“If you ever want to find out what type a team is, look at the holding midfielder,”  

“If it’s a centre half you probably know they want to defend. If it’s a ‘player’, you know they probably want to play. But you still have to be able to press and do the dirty work.”

“But Callum does that well. He does the footballing aspect naturally but why he is also in there is that tactically he can read the game so well. He’s one of your tactical decision-makers.”

Both midfielders also did well when they were on the ball as their passing success rates were both above 75% against Die Bullen.

With all that in mind, it’s going to be hard for injured duo Olivier Ntcham and club captain Scott Brown when they try and break back into the starting eleven.

Ntcham is a classy performer and will be up for the fight, he’s just signed a new deal with the Scottish champions. He’s very strong on the ball and has a wand of a left foot. He’s also very energetic and has an eye for a defence splitting pass.

Brown has been an inspirational leader for the Hoops for the some time now but the former Scotland captain hasn’t been as impressive this term. Transitions from midfield seem to slow up when Scott’s part of the play. He also doesn’t have the ability to find key passes like the other midfielders. Dare I say it but the thirty-three year old also seems to have lost it in the legs too.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’d never discount Brown. He has proved me wrong in the past and is still a player that can turn up on the big occasions. As I’ve said, Ntcham is another fantastic operator too but both the injured talents will have to bide their time when the return to full fitness.

Callum McGregor and Ryan Christie have both minded the till in recent weeks and the team have been playing superbly well.

So I doubt Rodgers will want to drop them just because the other two midfield stars return from the treatment table.

It’s great for Celtic that they’ve got such strength in depth in a vital position for the team.

Nicolas Pepe Would Be Breath Of Fresh Air At Arsenal

Once again Arsenal have been heavily linked with Lille OSC forward Nicolas Pepe.

The twenty-three year old has been one of the stars in Ligue 1 this season and there’s no doubt that The Gunners could be doing with more attacking threats in their squad.

It looks like Danny Welbeck is going to miss the rest of the season due to the injury he suffered in the 0-0 draw with Sporting Lisbon in midweek. So that means Arsenal are going to be an attacker down.

You then also have to think that Gunners boss Unai Emery will want a player that is especially strong on the right wing, plus a star that would be available to play in Europe.

For me, Pepe ticks all the boxes and more!

Nicolas has spent all of the current campaign out on the right flank and he has excelled out there. He’s Les Dogues leading scorer so far this term with his eight league strikes. He is also on hand to create for teammates and has five assists to his name already this season. Unlike many a winger, Pepe has strong awareness of what’s around him and that usually means he makes the right decisions when he enters the box. He can take the effort himself and he can also pick out a lovely through ball for another hitman.

Being predominantly left-footed, the wide-man loves cutting inside and that causes endless amounts of confusion in the final third for opposition defences. Nicolas’ close control is also strong and that sees him running directly at opponents, then dribbling beyond them.

The right winger is deceptively strong, so can withstand some stiff challenges, and he also has the pace to be extremely effective in counter attack situations.

The Ivorian had a very decent season last term, even though Lille didn’t, but he’s stepped it up a few gears this year and has looked sensational. Even in his side’s loss to the mighty PSG, the young forward was a big threat. He stuck away a penalty, had five successful dribbles (more than Kylian Mbappe) and Pepe was also good in possession.

His stats this season include; taking on average 4.2 shots per game, making around 2 key passes per French top flight encounter and he has a 78% passing success rate.

On the international stage, Nicolas has scored three times in eight caps. He would also be available to join The Gunners European adventure this season, if he were to sign in January.

The biggest issue could be convincing Les Dogues to sell their best talent. Lille manager Christophe Galtier stated the club aren’t interested in doing a deal this year:

“Nicolas has become an intransferable player. I know that the president wants to keep him all season, and Nicolas also wants to stay for the full season.”

I believe that signing Nicolas Pepe would give Arsenal another boost. They’ve improved greatly under Emery but at times they still look a bit slow in the transition, especially on the right wing. Pepe would be more direct than anyone that’s currently filling in Arsenal’s right flank.

The Gunners have a rich history of bringing in top young talent from Ligue 1 and they’d be doing that again if they were to sign live-wire Pepe.

Recent Performances Show Why Liverpool Still Need Nabil Fekir

Recent Liverpool performances against Manchester City, Arsenal and Red Star Belgrade have shown us that The Reds are still missing that world class creative talent that can unlock tight defences.

It’s true that Reds boss Jurgen Klopp has a thrilling front three and in Xherdan Shaqiri he has added a bit more of an attacking threat from midfield. But at key times this term, they’ve still lacked that attacking midfielder who has the vision and ability to play the right pass that breaks down stubborn, tight defences.

In their Champions League defeat in Belgrade, Liverpool bossed possession and had more efforts at goal. Unfortunately for them they didn’t create enough clearcut chances and in truth they actually only had the same amount of shots on target as their hosts.

Klopp and Liverpool’s recruitment team have done wonders in recent windows. They’ve vastly improved the backline with the additions of Andrew Robertson, Virgil van Dijk and Alisson. Obviously Mohamed Salah has added more goals to the frontline and the squad now has a greater strength in depth.

The one thing that the Merseyside giants haven’t done is successfully replace creative maestro Philippe Coutinho. The Brazilian, who left for FC Barcelona in January, did posses the knack of finding the forwards with sublime balls that would simply miss out opposing defences. Liverpool no longer have a star of that calibre in their team to create those chances in the biggest of games.

For me, that’s why the Premier League club should once again look at bringing in Olympique Lyonnais attacker Nabil Fakir.

A move for the French World Cup winner fell through during the summer. It was speculated that the Anfield club’s medical department weren’t overly happy with his medical report.

This season Nabil has played in seven Ligue 1 games, contributing to his team’s cause by scoring twice and setting up two assists. In the Champions League the Frenchman has made three appearances; scoring twice and creating two assists.

Fekir was in stunning form as Lyon beat Manchester City at the Etihad in September. He set-up Maxwell Cornet to score the first, then grabbed the winner himself with a neat low finish from distance. When you consider that Liverpool couldn’t make the breakthrough against City during their league clash at Anfield, it should tell you how good the twenty-five year old is that he managed to cut open the Citizens twice.

Nabil’s average passing success rate in the Champions League is up at 87% so far during this campaign. Last season, he scored over twenty goals (mostly from an attacking midfield position) and had nine assists to his name.

At Liverpool, Fekir would give The Reds an extra dimension from deeper positions. He would also give the attacking positions more versatility; he is excellent as a number ten, can play on the right, as a makeshift centre forward or even as a creative number eight in the engine room.

You’ve got to think that his ability to find a through ball and provide accurate well driven-in crosses would also have Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Salah rubbing their hands with glee as they think of the possible ammunition that Nabil could provide them if he were in a Reds jersey.

You then add the fact that if he’s not setting up chances, then he’s got the ability to put them away himself!

To win major trophies, you need top class players that can unlock defences in big games and create chances for your forwards. At times that just doesn’t seem to have happened for Liverpool this term. That could change if they go back in and finally sign Nabil Fekir.

 

Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku Shouldn’t Start In The Derby

Romelu Lukaku hasn’t started in Manchester United’s last three games and the Red Devils have won all of those three fixtures.

That includes a vital Champions League victory over Italian champions Juventus in Turin.

Man United boss Jose Mourinho has stated that the Belgian forward has missed the last two outings due to an unspecified injury and also suggested he could still miss Sunday’s derby game against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City:

‘[Romelu Lukaku] is injured for tomorrow and we don’t know for Sunday’

Let’s say that the £75m striker regains his fitness, should he start in the big Premier League clash? 

I’m not sure he should, if I’m being honest.

Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez has started to show good things now that he’s playing through the middle. His work rate and ability to drop deep could give the other two attackers space to run into.

Youngster Marcus Rashford will also feel that he’s done enough to deserve his chance playing as the club’s main striker. The England hitman managed to grab a goal against City last term and he scored the late winner of AFC Bournemouth last weekend.

On the lefthand side of the front three, Anthony Martial has really upped up his game recently. The twenty-two year old has scored five goals in his last four league games, that includes a brace against high flyers Chelsea. His form has been rewarded with an international recall from Didier Deschamps for Les Bleus. Martial might be playing on the left wing but the Frenchman has been United’s best forward so far this season.

Ultimately we’ve got to remember that even before his injury, Lukaku wasn’t having the best of times in-front of goal. The powerful forward hasn’t hit the back of the net in his last nine United appearances. His confidence has been at an all time low and I doubt throwing him in during such an important derby game would see him return to form.

I also don’t think it would be smart man-management from Jose Mourinho to just throw him back in at this stage. That wouldn’t keep the likes of Sanchez or Rashford happy and they’ve been decent in recent weeks.

You then have to worry about Lukaku’s fitness. We aren’t sure what’s wrong with the Belgian international but if it’s kept him on the sidelines for two games, then should you throw him straight back in for a high pressured game? That could see him suffer an early set-back if he’s being rushed back to quickly.

All in all, I just can’t see the reasoning behind starting Romelu Lukaku on Sunday even if he’s fit enough to start. He’s probably not fit enough, his confidence isn’t high and others have been better when given the chance to lead the line.

He could be an ideal super sub, especially if the Man City defence are tiring!